I posted an image to my facebook and twitter that was largely critical of the Fairy Creek protesters. They appeared to be basking in the self promoting they were doing of stopping all logging on Pacheedaht territory on the same day that the country was reeling from the news of 215 bodies of native children found buried in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The point wasn’t to suggest that the protesters were somehow insensitive to the families and communities who are connected to the 215 lost childred; it was to highlight an ironic hypocrisy of those folks who would claim to be defending first nations at Fairy Creek.
I got my first blowback from that.
Now, I blacked out the name of the person since I’m not here to humiliate or mock them, but the challenge needs to be answered.
This is not the last stand of old growth trees on the coast. Its nothing like that. Its 20 hectares of a total 1200 hectares of the Fairy Creek basin, or, 1.67% of the available trees.
I’m sure there were other first nation people there. But unless you’re alleging that the business deal that allowed for this project to go ahead was done so illegally or without the authority of the Pacheedaht’s recognized governance and leadership framework, the protesters – including the various first nation attendees aren’t speaking for the Pacheedaht.
To argue that the Pacheedaht leadership – both elected and hereditary – should be ignored in favour of unilateral actions from outside influences is a page out of the book of the very colonizers everyone should be opposing.
We, as (mostly) white people, after centuries of imposing our will on first nations, should not be the final adjudicators of how first nations govern themselves. To undermine them as this challenger has (and the remainder of the protesters), undercuts decades of reconciliation and treaty-making progress. This is very dangerous.
I’m no ally of big corporations, but to imply that one is the big bad guy looking to take advantage of the poor hapless Indian is insulting, twice. It suggests that ‘Indians’ don’t have the smarts to make a business deal to the benefit of their community and that they cannot be trusted to govern themselves.
The Pacheedaht have governed themselves and had done so for ages before the arrival of white saviors from Europe. We took that away and nearly destroyed them and many other first nation communities along the way. We tried hard; just the other day, we discovered that 215 of them were buried in unmarked graves near Kamloops.
But they have persevered and fought back. Legally, judicially and in the political arena. The Pacheedaht are rising; and they’re becoming a success story.
Just look: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/forests-forestry/state-canadas-forests-report/successful-indigenous-industry-partnerships-forest-sector-people-seafoam/21197
The final chapter is far from written for these rightly proud people, but now as they assert themselves and try to stand among equals (government to government), along come outside folks who know better.
This is the opposite of reconciliation and UNDRIP…and it might work. These folks might bully the Pacheedaht right out of this deal; they’ve already managed to blockade their local sawmill and marina to demonstrate their ‘point’.
I understand that its politically sexy to oppose cutting trees in forests. Its not as easy to promote it. But this is the world of the Pacheedaht (and others on the coast who might suffer the same fate). They have managed their communities, the forests, the rivers and creeks, the mountains and wildlife far longer than we have been here; and they’ll do fine without our interference.
If we’re genuine about truth, reconciliation and UNDRIP, we’ll respect the Pacheedaht and the decisions they have made on behalf of their people. They have won (back) the right to do so, and we’re out of line to try and stop them.
Leading isn’t easy. Everyone loves a good headline when you’re in charge, but leadership means you take the tough ones too.
Leave the Pacheedaht alone, folks.